I spend a much needed zero day in the comfort of a hotel room in Sisters before heading back on trail the next day around noon. It’s blazing hot when I step out of the car of trail angel Stella who gave me a ride out of town. Ahead of me all I can wasteland of burnt trees, but soon I’m at the 2000 mile marker and all is well for the time being. This second thousand went way quicker than the first, due to both easier terrain and higher motivation, but it feels just as good if not better. At this mile on the Appalachian Trail I was just shy of the end goal. The PCT however will continue to wind on for another 650 miles, and while I am ready to be done walking at this point I’m so glad I get to hold onto this for just a little while longer. One more month and I’ll be in Canada.I walk through the burn area for 13 miles, gaining almost 2000 feet and sweating like no other. I pass a large rock formation known as three fingered Jack as well as a herd of mountain goats doing their thing. There is no water for this stretch besides green disgusting looking ponds until I make it to Rockpile Lake where I camp with Sour Rip, Swag, and… Oolong! It’s a great night full of conversation and laughter while the sun sets amongst the lake.
I sleep well, it feels good to be with new friends and also see old ones at the same time. The next morning all of our tents are saturated with condensation, which we should have expected seeing as the lake was no more than ten feet from our site. I pack up my rainfly which is nothing more than a wet rag and stuff it in my pack, in a few hours it will be hot and sunny which will dry it out in minutes. I walk along the edge of the lake and then atop a ridge where the earth becomes volcanic again as Mount Jefferson grows closer. I eat breakfast up close and personal with this volcanic peak, which is unique in its structure as all the volcanoes have been. Meadows stretch out from its base far below the snow covered granite of the top. The trail circles Jefferson all day long, allowing me to see every side of this beast without the effort of actually climbing it. Red, Scrapbook, Shaggy, and 13 catch me just as I’m leaving a stream but I will see them later as we all plan to camp at the same spot. I cross the Milky River, named for the white silty water coming from a glacier atop Mount Jefferson. These cloudy rivers will become more frequent as I hike north.
I enter Jefferson Park, an area rich with vast meadows and a backdrop of the impressive peak I’ve been looking at all day. The trail climbs steeply for the first time in forever but it actually feels good to be working some different muscles and the view back to Jefferson is almost as exciting as the view ahead to Mount Hood, Oregon’s biggest volcano. About halfway up it is the Timberline Lodge, where the shining was written/partly filmed as well as my next resupply location. There doesn’t seem to be many obstacles between me and it which is promising, but as I descend I’m slowed by the rocky unforgiving terrain as well as the snow that still clings to the northern face of the mountain I’m on. The views are more than worth it though, I’m almost a little sad when I reach the BreitenBush Campground but once I’m eating food and not walking I quickly get over it. The others all show up, we have a fire and talk with nearby car campers who offer us grapes and hot dogs. I’m still doing my own thing as of now, but I’ve been hiking around these guys for a few weeks now. I think about my friends behind, and there’s no doubt that these people have made significant impressions on me, but just as it did on the AT my trail family has evolved. As much as I miss the way things were, I’m pretty damn happy with the way things are.
The next day we make it about seven miles before being sucked into the Vortex of Ollallie Lake Resort, a rustic shack of a store where we spent hours eating snacks and playing Monopoly Deal. By 12:45 we’re still there but have dreams of making another 15 or so miles so we can make it to Timberline Lodge the next day. The trail is mellow and forested, perfect terrain to zone out and just walk. At Warm Springs River we stop to camp, about thirty or so miles out from Timberline. The next morning is an early one but still not as early as planned. Waking up at five is nearly impossible now that it’s dark and cold until around 7. I stop for my first break at Little Crater Lake and am soon joined by everyone else. The water is unbelievably blue and clear. It’s a deep lake being fed by an underwater spring which must be why it’s named after its much larger predecessor. The water is freezing, and Red earns a pizza by swimming across it. When she gets out Shaggy, who is a doctor, says her skin is colder than any dead person he’s ever felt. Luckily the sun has come out in full force, laying in the grass was more than enough to warm her up before hiking on. The flat section I’ve been walking the last few days comes to an end as the climb up to Mount Hood begins but the views are worth the extra effort as always. The snow covered peak is visible through the trees every so often but before long I rise above treelike where I can see everything.
The trail is extremely steep and sandy at this point, it feels like I’m climbing a mountain that will somehow have a beach atop it. The Lodge becomes visible, as I huff and puff my way towards it I hear a loud engine behind me and see a road I hadn’t noticed where there is a bus bringing loads of tourists to the top who all stare at me curiously as they drive by. That breakfast buffet won’t taste anywhere near as good to them.
I reach the top and find about twenty other tents pitched in the campsite behind the lodge. Inside I have a joyous reunion with Cookie and Nothing Yet who have skipped up to make it for PCT Days. In the morning all the hikers flock into the lodge for the incredible breakfast buffet and then lounge around in the main lobby, looking quite out of place in such a beautiful building. The next day and a half are spent hiking to Cascade Locks, where I am now and will be for the next three days enjoying annual “PCT Days”, a reunion and a celebration as I’ll be in Washington as soon as I cross the bridge over the river here. Oregon was a great time, can’t wait to check out the next part of the Pacific Northwest!